On Wednesday Scott Pruitt, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, proudly told an audience of coal miners in Kentucky that the Trump administration would rescind an Obama-era policy designed to curtail greenhouse gas emissions.
“The war on coal is over,” Pruitt said before announcing his intention to repeal the Clean Power Plan. But Pruitt’s decision to repeal the Clean Power Rule, while ecologically detrimental, stands out a purely symbolic gesture to court an already flailing coal industry.
Drafted and introduced in 2015, the Clean Power Plan was never formally rolled out. After 29 states partnered with dozens of energy corpropatons to challenge its introduction, the Clean Power Plan was blocked by the Supreme Court in 2016 (Pruitt, it’s worth noting, fiercely opposed the plan as Oklahoma’s attorney general).
Had the rule been implemented, it would have required power plants to cut emissions dramatically: by 2030, the reduction would have 32% for carbon, 90% for sulfur dioxide, and 72% for nitrogen oxide. Under Pruitt’s supervision, the EPA planned to reevaluate the rule along with several other Obama administration environmental policies deemed Bad for Business.
So here we are, nearly nine months after Trump took office and a little over four months after he announced his decision to pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement. On Tuesday, Pruitt said, the repeal proposal will be filed to the Federal Register — and a rule that never was, will truly never be (federally, that is).
As the New York Times noted, repealing the Clean Power Plan is unlikely to affect the decline of coal. Several states have already adopted the policy’s premise on their own and have shifted their electrical grids to relying on renewable energy sources. States have even begun closing their coal mines and replacing those jobs with ones in wind and solar — such is the case in Colorado.
And just like the Obama administration encountered legal challenge after legal challenge trying to introduce the Clean Power Plan, the Trump administration will also incur as much difficulty repealing it. Massachusetts attorney general Maura Healey released a statement on Monday warning the EPA of an impending fight: “Along with our partners, Massachusetts fought for years to put this rule in place, and we will be suing to protect the Clean Power Plan from the climate change deniers in this administration who are trying to move us backwards,” she said.